If Falcons fall out of playoff hunt, should they sit Matt Ryan?

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The last thing the Atlanta Falcons want to see over their final four games of 2018 is Matt Ryan sprawled across the ground again and again.

That vision has become too common this season for the 4-8 Falcons, with Ryan being sacked 36 times in 12 games. Ryan is on pace to be sacked a career-high 48 times, which would top the 44 sacks he absorbed in 2013.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn obviously is concerned about the number of hits Ryan has taken this season.

“Well, No. 1, I’m concerned about it because if we’re not protecting him in the way that we can, then that gets hard,” Quinn said Monday. “And there’s some games that the score’s out of whack and it turns into a dropback game where there’s going to be more chances for a defense to go after him.8

Ryan is being hit an average of 7.7 times per game and has been hit more than 10 times in three games: Philadelphia (14), Pittsburgh (13) and at New Orleans (13), all losses.

With the Falcons signing Ryan to a five-year, $150 million extension ($100 million guaranteed) before the ’18 season, they certainly want to protect their investment. Ryan, 33, hasn’t missed a game since 2009, when he was sidelined a couple games with turf toe.

Here are a few things the Falcons need to do to keep their franchise QB healthy moving forward.

Protect better: Of course, the offensive line has to do its part to keep Ryan upright. Losing starting guards Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco to season-ending injuries didn’t help, but they weren’t the answer, either. The Falcons shook up the lineup a little when Ben Garland was replaced by Zane Beadles this past week.

Probably the only other options are to play swing tackle Ty Sambrailo at left guard for the struggling Wes Schweitzer, or at one of the tackle spots if Ryan Schraeder or Jake Matthews continue to falter. But Sambrailo’s not a great option, either. The Falcons also could give undrafted rookie Matt Gono, who has been inactive all season, an opportunity to see what he offers. “Obviously your No. 1 job as an offensive lineman is to keep the quarterback on his feet,” Matthews said. “Yeah, we need to do a better job of that, and executing better.”